The biomedical research enterprise must engage all sectors of the population in order to solve the most complex biological problems and discover innovative new ways to improve human health.
—Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the award of more than $30 million in fiscal year 2014 funds to develop new approaches that engage researchers, including those from backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical sciences, and prepare them to thrive in the NIH-funded workforce. These awards are part of a projected 5-year program to support more than 50 awardees and partnering institutions in establishing a national consortium to develop, implement, and evaluate approaches to encourage individuals to start and stay in biomedical research careers. Supported by the NIH Common Fund and all NIH 27 institutes and centers, 12 awards will be issued as part of three initiatives of the Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-funded workforce program.
Leveraging the Power of Our Country’s Diversity
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said, “These awards will leverage the power of our country’s diversity so that together, we can continue to advance biomedical research and unlock the cures to some of the great health challenges of our times.”
Research demonstrates that economic, social, and cultural factors have a powerful impact on the pursuit of science careers and has provided small scale data on interventions that have the potential to transform biomedical research training if implemented widely. This body of work suggests that a fundamental shift in the way scientists are trained and mentored is required to attract and sustain the interest of people from underrepresented groups in the scientific workforce at all career stages.
“The biomedical research enterprise must engage all sectors of the population in order to solve the most complex biological problems and discover innovative new ways to improve human health,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “While past efforts to diversify our workforce have had significant impact on individuals, we have not made substantial progress in expanding diversity on a larger scale. This program will test new models of training and mentoring so that we can ultimately attract the best minds from all groups to biomedical research.”
The awards have been made to a geographically diverse group of institutions serving multiple underrepresented populations in biomedical research. The consortium of awardees will determine hallmarks of success at each phase of the biomedical career path, including competencies and skills required for a successful research career that extend beyond content knowledge in the sciences, such as leadership, grant writing, innovation, and networking.
“These awards represent a significant step toward ensuring that NIH’s future biomedical research workforce will reflect the unique perspectives found within the diverse composition of our society,” said Hannah Valantine, MD, NIH Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity.
“The Enhancing the Diversity of the NIH-Funded Workforce program aims to enable transformation across the spectrum of research training and mentoring,” said James M. Anderson, MD, PhD, Director of the NIH Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, which oversees the NIH Common Fund. “We expect that new models for fostering careers will emerge and be widely adopted, having nationwide impact on biomedical research workforce diversity. Scientists from all backgrounds as well as science will ultimately benefit from these activities.” ■